The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #141964 Message #3291385
Posted By: John Minear
16-Jan-12 - 10:36 AM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: Demon Lover in New England?
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Demon Lover in New England?
One of the remarkable characteristics of the Andrews/De Marsan broadside printed in Philadelphia and New York City in 1858/1860 is the reference to "the banks of the old Tennessee," referring to the Tennessee River. We have noted that the only Northeastern version that has this that we have been able to find so far is the one from Jennie Devlin.
In her essay, Gardner-Medwin has a very interesting theory about "the old Tennessee." Rather than try to summarize it, I will print another long quote from her article:
"Let us look more closely at the mysterious land to which the young woman is beckoned. In America the use has changed markedly, from the seducer saying "I will shew you how the lilies grow, On the banks of Italy" (FI2) to "I will take you where the grass grows high, On the banks of old Tennessee" (De Marsan 3 ). It is evident that when this was printed this place-name had already undergone the changes noted by W.Edson Richmond.'  There are, as will be seen from his article, a great many American substitutes for "Italy." Some of them are nonsensical, but sound like it (for example, "sweet Da Dee," "sweet Willie"); some represent a memory that the journey was a sea journey ("salt water sea"); some show an attempt to place the song in a geographical context familiar to the hearers, and of these "Tennessee" is an example. It has a similar rhythm to "Italy" but is otherwise not very like it; moreover the Tennessee is a river, and it is obvious from the context in De Marsan that a sea voyage of three or four weeks is contemplated. It is interesting to note in this connection that there was a belief among the early settlers that a mysterious western sea lay only as far to the west of the Appalachian watershed as the Atlantic lay to the east. There is an early map made by Farrer in 1651 that shows this slim American continent.  In 'A Perfect Description of Virginia', Farrer puts this belief into words'  He says:
"From the head of the James River above the falls ... will be found like rivers issuing into a south sea or a west sea, on the other side of those hills, as there is on this side, where they run from the west down to the east sea after a course of one hundred and fifty miles; but of this certainty Henry Briggs, that most judicious and learned mathematician, wrote a small tractate and presented it to the noble earl of Southampton, the governor of the Virginia Company in England anno 1623.
Briggs says there is a sea "on the other side of the mountains beyond our falls which openeth a free and fair passage to China."
These geographical tracts were of course written at a much earlier date than that from which we have the ballad, and by the time the De Marsan broadside was printed it was well known that the Tennessee was a tributary of the Mississippi. However, since I am suggesting that the ballad arrived in America some considerable time before the 1860 printing let us look for a possible clue to the date that the river acquired the name "Tennessee". Here again maps are very helpful. In 1760 A New Map of the Cherokee Nation was published; the river there is called "Cherokees or Hogehegee River," and there is a settlement on it called "Tunnassee." In a sketch map of about 1783 the river is called "Tenefee";  by 1794 both the river and the state are called "Tennassee."  If I am correct in my belief that the ballad came to the Appalachian Mountains before 1775, then it would seem not impossible that the name "Tennessee" was substituted for "Italy" because the old belief in a western sea just beyond the mountains had not yet been superseded by the correct knowledge of the geography of the rivers and perhaps also because Tennessee represented the mysterious and beckoning west.
The position within the ballad which this verse occupies is significant. In the Scottish versions it appears late in the story, after the young woman has discovered what the situation is and has started to weep. In many American versions it appears right at the beginning, as if this were the one promise that would persuade the young woman to leave. In De Marsan it appears in both positions; a closer look at the broadside shows that there is a significant change in the words the second time this verse appears.
De Marsan 3.
"If you will forsake your House-Carpenter,
And go along with me,
I will take you to where the grass grows high,
On the banks of old Tennessee!"
De Marsan 10.
"Oh, dry up your tears, my own true love,
And cease your weeping," cried he,
"For soon you'll see your own happy home,
On the banks of old Tennessee."
The first six lines are very like the Scottish versions and they appear in the American position and again in the Scottish one, after she weeps. Indeed the first two lines are close to the Scottish (see FI 2). However, all hint of mystery has evaporated in the last two lines: the demon lover has become the most ordinary of seducers and all he offers is "Your own happy home." This is far from the Scottish tradition, and indeed is not often found in American versions. Nearly all of the versions published by Bronson consistently give this promise as the inducement to leave and omit it from the end of the story.  Three of his examples( 54, 71, and 94) repeat the verse at the end, and only 94 changes the words as De Marsan does. If De Marsan had been influential in the spread of this ballad in America, one would expect to find a larger percentage of versions following this particular change."